Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ride the Worm Gear

Picture from
It was a hot summer afternoon. Mikey and Mama had just finished reading Flotsom and it was time to prepare food for cooking dinner. They were going to make chicken burritos but but first the peppers needed to be chopped and the chicken needed to be ground. Mikey had never helped grind meat before and he was excited.

When Mama took the KitchenAid stand mixer out from the cupboard, Mikey knew that grinding was going to be awesome. Then he watched Mama assemble the grinding attachment. There was a funnel, a worm gear, and a propeller blade. What an incredible group of tools! Once everything was safe and secure, Mama let Mikey turn the mixer on and peer down the funnel where he could see the worm gear slowly and powerfully turning.

Slowly, Mama lowered pieces of chicken into the funnel. Mikey watched and waited and before too long he saw the chicken pressing through the sieve. It was a quick job in the kitchen - setting up and cleaning up took more time than the grinding - and Mikey felt inspired.

While Mama cleaned the grinder and put away the stand mixer, Mikey found his old Play-Doh factory. Like the grinder, his factory had worm gears but they had been stuck for a long time. Mikey asked Mama if they could try to fix it.

Together, Mikey and Mama unscrewed the toy and disassembled it piece by piece. It was even better than the grinder attachment! Ten screws held the cover together. Each of the three worm gears stood alone as beautiful plastic piece. Four more screws undone revealed the geared mechanism that connects the crank drive to the worm gears. A bevel gear, one nested gear, plus four more gears easily disassembled for cleaning.

Mikey helped clean all the plastic gears. Then he followed Mama's instructions to put the gears back together. It was like being inside a big clock, just like Curious George "On Time." They tested the gears to make sure they worked. Then, while Mama fastened the first screws of reassembly, Mikey played with the worm gears. He said, "I'm going to keep these forever! If they don't work in the factory then I can make them into an auger truck."

Next, it was time to put the worm gears back in the factory. Mikey tested the crank to be sure the worm gears worked. Then Mama reattached the cover and they tested again. Everything seemed to work!

The final test came when Mikey rolled a piece of homemade play dough into a noodle and put it into the factory. He cranked the toy and the play dough balls started coming out...but they were cattywampus. The worm gears weren't lined up right!

So Mama disassembled the toy again, aligned the gears better, and reassembled it while Mikey had a snack. Sure enough, the Play-doh factory worked! The balls were just right. Mikey and Mama were both happy.

I call this post "Ride the Worm Gear" because of all the different versions of a "worm gear" that we encountered (for real or in our minds): four worm gears, lots of screws, the auger, not to mention the regular gears and the bevel gear! It was fun for Mikey to see and discuss everything with me. It was fun for me to listen to Mikey while I assembled the device without a blueprint. I was amazed by the engineering of the toy and that I could easily disassemble and reassemble it (although I have to warn you that I have very good spatial relations). I wonder, what kind of adventures have snowballed from your work in the kitchen?

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